Nwadeyi: South Africans must reclaim their humanity

28 February 2016

Saarah Survé, Stellenbosch Department of Journalism

Stellenbosch University – Lovelyn Nwadeyi, a Stellenbosch student from 2010 to 2012, has called on South Africans to reclaim their collective humanity, histories and languages so that their children will know the truth about themselves.

Nwadeyi addressed former and current students, as well as fulltime academic staff members, at the annual meeting of the Stellenbosch University Convocation on Thursday.

Nwadeyi is the youngest black woman to address the SU Convocation. Her speech reflected on the differences of the Stellenbosch she attended and the one that exists today.

Fighting back emotion, she explained that it is difficult for her to talk about courage and compassion. “The rainbow nation ideal promised… in 1994 is becoming an ever-distant one,” she said. Nwadeyi added that “perhaps we are realising that there was no rainbow to start with.”

“South Africans are now faced with the task of looking into the mirror, and asking themselves what is happening around us and why does it feel this way?” said Nwadeyi, who is cautiously questioning what is new about Stellenbosch and South Africa.

“Something is brewing in South Africa… I know it is irreversible and will continue to brew and boil over whether we give it the permission to do so or not,” she said.

“Stellenbosch is not exempt from the winds of change that are blowing through this country,” said Nwadeyi. She also stated that Stellenbosch is responsible for many of the inequalities that South Africa faces today.

Nwadeyi said that the difference between South Africa and Germany is that the Germans are genuinely sorry about the past and have written off that part of their history as unequivocally bad, whereas South Africans are nostalgic for the good old days.

“We must dismantle this inhumanity that we are all products of, by reclaiming our collective humanity…and our languages,” said Nwadeyi.

While addressing the convocation, Nwadeyi slipped effortlessly between English and Afrikaans, illustrating her point that there are many faces to Afrikaans as a language and a culture.

She ended her speech with the hope that one day it would not be necessary for her to talk to her children about racism and sexism. “That is really my dream for South Africa, and Africa as a whole, but for us to get to that point, we need to know about the roles we need to play,” she explained.

“None of us get to claim an easy victory, because there is no victory in our collective pain, there is only closure… which South Africa desperately needs,” said Nwadeyi.

At the convocation, five new members were elected onto Stellenbosch University’s executive committee. According to City Press, Nwadeyi was a candidate for the position of vice-chair on the committee, but lost by 15 votes. None of the 5 black candidates were elected.

James de Villiers, Head of Communication of Stellenbosch University’s Student Representative Council, said that Stellenbosch University’s Convocation was disappointed in the result of the meeting.

“They had a chance to vote for a truly transformed statutory body that represents Stellenbosch’s changing demographics and needs, but chose not to.

“The Convocation chose to remain within the boundaries of what is comfortable and, in real terms, regressed in its representation of diversity and much needed transformation,” said De Villiers.

De Villiers said it is concerning that Breyten Breytenbach, South African poet and writer and the second speaker at the convocation, “represents a bygone era, where the university represented one culture, one race and one language.”

Nwadeyi has a Master’s Degree in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution from Uppsala University in Sweden.

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